Key IT Roles for Driving Business Value


Contract-to-Hire-BlogI’ve posted at length about the Business Relationship Manager (BRM) role as being key to driving business value from IT. But what other roles—typically under-served—work with the BRM in the pursuit of business value from IT?
In this post, I am going to introduce three dimensions of value realization than are important to driving business value. Along with those dimensions, I will discuss three roles that are associated with those disciplines.

Note: This post refers to roles. A role is not the same thing as a job. Think of a role as a ‘hat’ you wear if you meet certain qualifications (possess certain competencies). When you are qualified to wear a given hat, you have certain responsibilities and accountabilities. Roles, the competencies they demand, the processes in which they participate, and the ways they engage with other roles are all characteristics that are defined in an IT Operating Model. Some people will fill multiple roles, depending upon circumstances and needs.

Three Dimensions of Value Realization

So, how does IT increase its impact on Business Value Realization? There are three major value sources that the IT organization can impact:

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 1.21.31 PMLet’s examine each of these dimensions.

Shaping Business Demand

At low maturity, an IT organization is often referred to as “order takers” for business requests. One the face of it, this sounds customer-centric and responsive. However, the reality is that at low maturity, much  business demand yields relatively little business value. It’s also the case than when the business client has already figured out what they need before the engage IT (or if the business client has depended upon external consultants and vendors to tell them what they need) then the IT organization’s opportunities to add value are very limited.

If an IT organization is able to engage with their business partners earlier—to be proactive, not simply responsive, they can stimulate, surface and shape demand towards higher value opportunities. And these high value opportunities tend to suppress demand for low value activities, so more people are working on high value opportunities.

Shaping business demand is an important discipline for increasing IT maturity, and with it, driving more value from IT. Associated with this discipline is the role of Business Relationship Manager (BRM)—a role that sits between an IT organization and its business clients. In leading practice organizations, the BRM role (or whatever label it goes by) is focused on demand management, with an eye to elevating business value of IT.

Leveraging IT Assets and Information

At low IT maturity, much effort goes towards establishing a supportive, reliable and predictable infrastructure and the business applications that depend upon that infrastructure. Typically, these business applications go significantly under-leveraged. The cost, effort and business disruption associated with their deployment tends to lead to a mentality of “declare success and move on!” The business users need time to get back their breath. They also need to be shown new ways to leverage the platforms and the mountains of information they generate. Also, while IT organizations typically do a good job maintaining these business applications, there is no single role focused on managing their total lifetime value.

In order to increase maturity, architectural and asset management disciplines must be established around business applications, so as to create business platforms and products that enable business process improvement and innovation. Platforms are inherently extensible and readily leveraged—think about the iPhone as a platform, with open, published Application Programming Interfaces (API), the Apple Store and thousands of apps available to run on that platform.

The role responsible for these architectural and asset management disciplines is referred to as Product Management, and is an important aspect of reaching higher maturity and driving business value—ensuring that the full potential value of Business Platforms and Products is exploited and harvested. The BRM role works closely with Product Managers to help create the business appetite for new business capability that leverages the underlying business platforms and products.

Optimizing Business Use

While low maturity IT organizations focus on building, implementing and maintaining business solutions, as maturity increases the focus expands to help optimize the business value realized though using these solutions. This depends upon the discipline of Value Management, which in turn leverages competencies in Business Change Management and Portfolio Management.

There are several roles that are involved in Value Management—that of the Business Sponsor for a given initiative, Portfolio Manager, Business Change Consultant and, again, the BRM with their focus on demand management and business value realization.

In future posts, I will explore each of these disciplines and roles, and how these can be established as part of your IT Operating Model.

Note: My next on-line BRMP Certification courses are being held across 3 Mondays—July 7, 14 and 21, 2014 and 3 Tuesdays—September 2, 9 and 16 . For details, please click here.

Image provided courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

 

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Common Failure Modes in Business Relationship Management – Part 4


risk_failure_940x470This is the fourth and penultimate in a series of  posts about common failure modes I come across in the deployment of a Business Relationship Management (BRM) role and/or capability.

In Parts 1, 2 and 3 in this series I discussed six common failure modes:

  • Failure Mode #1: Where the BRM is positioned as the “Single Point of Contact” between a provider organization (typically an IT organization) and their business clients. The Single Point of Contact role is often introduced in response to a common symptom—the business client is unclear who to contact for what. In other words, the root cause is lack of organization clarity, and the false belief is that by appointing a BRM (or whatever label you use) as a Single Point of Contact, the organizational dysfunctionality arising from lack of clarity will be mitigated.
  • Failure Mode #2: BRM As “Dumping Ground” when the BRM becomes a “catch all” for requests that nobody else wants to deal with, or that people are not sure who is supposed to deal with them. Again, lack of organizational clarity is a root cause here.
  • Failure Mode #3: Strategic BRM when a Tactical BRM is needed.  While it is possible to migrate from Tactical to Strategic BRM, it demands that the BRM has the competencies to be strategic, and it takes some skill and finesse to establish up front the medium to longer term vision for the strategic business relationship.
  • Failure Mode #4: Tactical BRM when a Strategic BRM is needed. It is very difficult to migrate a purely tactical BRM to a Strategic role. They will be unlikely to have the experience and competencies to act as a true strategic partner, or to be granted the executive level access they need to be successful in the strategic BRM role.
  • Failure Mode #5: Total Focus on the Business Partner at the Expense of Key Provider Stakeholders.  The key here is to not focus on your business partner to the exclusion of your key provider stakeholders—you need strong partnerships with both your business and provider stakeholders.
  • Failure Mode #6: Beware Consultants Bearing PowerPoint Decks! Validate that your chosen consultant REALLY knows how to help you deploy a BRM capability that is sustainable.  Check references carefully—not just the firm’s references but those of the individual consultant you will be working with.  Have they really helped clients deploy the BRM capability with successful outcomes? Do they have experience getting derailed BRM deployments back on track? Are they accredited to train and consult in the BRM space by the relevant authority, such as APMG-International? Are they active members in Business Relationship Management Institute?

Let’s look at one other common BRM deployment failure mode.

Failure Mode #7: Failure to Convince Senior Management of the Value of the BRM Role

This is the “fail before you really even get started!” situation, and it is very common. People see the dysfunctionalities between their IT organization and their business clients, come across some example of or reference to the Business Relationship Manager role, and unsuccessfully wage a campaign to “sell” the need for this role to the CIO (or perhaps fail to help the CIO sell the role to the CEO or CFO.) There can be a couple of root causes behind this mode of failure:

  1. The person who developed the business case has failed to develop one that is compelling to those who must approve the role.
  2. The person “selling” the business case has failed to deliver the case in a convincing way.

Either way, this raises questions about the competence of those creating or selling the case to be a BRM. Of course, they may be trying to sell the role without any expectation that they will be among the BRMs, so their lack of competency to put together and communicate an effective case might be forgiven. And the lack of people with the competence to build and sell a compelling business case may be symptomatic of the need for BRM competencies—but that still leaves you in a “Catch 22″ situation—you need BRM skills to sell the BRM role!

Do More With Less!

IT organizations are under constant pressure to do more with less. Staff, especially senior resources, are a large part of an IT budget, and headcount is a closely watched metric. Often this means that hiring a handful of BRMs (or moving a handful of people into a BRM role) implies that people filling other roles must be replaced or backfilled.  After several rounds of downsizing, or “rightsizing”, there’s no “fat” to be trimmed, and nobody wants to give up on current roles and positions.

But one clue to successfully “doing more with less” can be found in previous recessions. With over 30 years of management consulting under my belt, I’ve been through several major recessions.  During these periods, much consulting activity is about taking cost out of the IT budget.  I’ve learned several lessons through this work:

  1. Conversations about cost lead to more conversations about cost—ad infinitum!  IT will never be “cheap enough” if all you do is focus on cost. The key is to shift the conversations to value.
  2. Conversations about business value realization have a huge impact on demand—low value demand can be suppressed, making room for higher value possibilities. In any portfolio analysis, there will be some variation on the Pareto Principle—80% of IT projects will deliver 20% of the total realized business value. Reducing activities on low value demand is a wonderful way of freeing up resources and budget for higher value activities.
  3. Business value conversations beget more value conversations.  Freeing up resources that are working on low value activities makes space for higher value activities—and that is exactly what the BRM role is about—surfacing, shaping and satisfying demand based upon business value.
  4. Many costly IT assets are underutilized. The pursuit of the “next shiny object” tends to add significant IT cost, often without creating significant new value. Better leverage of an existing, funded asset is a great way to create value without adding significant cost.

So, what does a compelling business case for BRM look like? Please tune in for the next and final post in this series.  The easiest way to do that is to click in the right hand panel on Subscribe in a Reader or Get this blog emailed to you.

 

Note: My next on-line BRMP Certification courses are being held across 3 Mondays—July 7, 14 and 21, 2014 and 3 Tuesdays—September 2, 9 and 16 . For details, please click here.

 

Common Failure Modes in Business Relationship Management – Part 3


success-failureThis is the third in a series of  posts about common failure modes I come across in the deployment of a Business Relationship Management (BRM) role and/or capability.

In Parts 1 and 2 in this series I discussed four common failure modes:

  • Failure Mode #1: Where the BRM is positioned as the “Single Point of Contact” between a provider organization (typically an IT organization) and their business clients. The Single Point of Contact role is often introduced in response to a common symptom—the business client is unclear who to contact for what. In other words, the root cause is lack of organization clarity, and the false belief is that by appointing a BRM (or whatever label you use) as a Single Point of Contact, the organizational dysfunctionality arising from lack of clarity will be mitigated.  This is not an effective remedy to the organizational clarity issue, and sooner or later, the BRM role will collapse under the weight of low value activities.
  • Failure Mode #2: BRM As “Dumping Ground” when the BRM becomes a “catch all” for requests that nobody else wants to deal with, or that people are not sure who is supposed to deal with them. Again, lack of organizational clarity is a root cause here, and the types of problems this leads to are very similar to those identified above due to the Single Point of Contact failure mode.
  • Failure Mode #3: Strategic BRM when a Tactical BRM is needed.  While it is possible to migrate from Tactical to Strategic BRM, it demands that the BRM has the competencies to be strategic, and it takes some skill and finesse to establish up front the medium to longer term vision for the strategic business relationship with the caveat that in the near term, the BRM will be part of the provider organization’s improvement efforts, and therefore mainly focused on essential, though tactical activities, such as service definition.
  • Failure Mode #4: Tactical BRM when a Strategic BRM is needed. It is very difficult to migrate a purely tactical BRM to a Strategic role. They will be unlikely to have the experience and competencies to act as a true strategic partner, or to be granted the executive level access they need to be successful in the strategic BRM role. The business partner will quickly conclude that the BRM is not adding value—only cost.

Let’s look at a couple of other common BRM deployment failure modes.

Failure Mode #5: Total Focus on the Business Partner at the Expense of Key Provider Stakeholders

This trap is easy to fall into, given that the new BRM sees their main “client” and focus of attention as their business partner.  After all, if they understand that their true mission is to help that partner increase the business value they are extracting from investments in the provider’s capabilities and assets, then this is where they should spend the majority of their time—right?  Well, yes—but…

  1. In many ways, to be effective, the BRM must act as a ‘bridge’ between provider and client (or, if you prefer, customer.) Bridges have to join both ends—otherwise you have one of the infamous “Bridges to nowhere.”  That might satisfy a politician pursuing pork for their constituency, but it’s not going to help the business partner drive value!
  2. Often, when the BRM role is first introduced, key stakeholders in the provider organization fear that they have been ‘disenfranchised.’  They might feel that their business facing activities are their most important (or enjoyable) aspects of their job and might (wrongly!) assume that those business facing activities are going to be curtailed (or even eliminated) by the new BRM role.
  3. The BRM must be an effective “navigator” through the provider organization, and an “orchestrator” of provider resources. These roles demand a strong partnership with key stakeholders on the provider side, otherwise the BRM is not going to be an effective bridge.

 Lesson #5: BRMs need strong relationships with key provider stakeholders.

Don’t focus on your business partner to the exclusion of your key provider stakeholders. Your mission is to first align, then converge business and provider capabilities. To achieve that, you need strong partnerships with both your business and provider stakeholders.

Failure Mode #6: Beware Consultants Bearing PowerPoint Decks!

I’m always reluctant to criticize my fellow consultants, but I’ve lost count of the number of clients I’ve worked with in helping them recover from another consulting firm’s poor work—and there are several large consulting firms and one advisory service that are guilty of this sin. The sin in question is delivering several hundred PowerPoint slides as the key deliverable from a consulting engagement intended to help the client design and deploy a BRM capability.

PowerPoint is an ok vehicle for raising awareness and even for educating—but it’s a lousy way to transfer knowledge.  And if you can’t express the important ‘essence’ of the BRM role in a couple of handfuls of slides, you probably don’t really understand that role!

Typically, the consultant comes into the client, conducts a few interviews, then goes into ‘death-by-PowerPoint’ mode, then moves on (after submitting a significant bill!)

The end result is confusion within the client organization, often accompanied by a sense of, “We must be idiots—all that consulting expertise and intellectual capital, and we still don’t understand how to make BRM real!”

Lesson #6: Check references carefully—not just the firm’s references but those of the individual consultant you will be working with.

Have they really helped clients deploy the BRM capability with successful outcomes? Do they have experience getting derailed BRM deployments back on track? Are they accredited to train and consult in the BRM space by the relevant authority, such as APMG-International? Are they active members in Business Relationship Management Institute?

Note: My next on-line BRMP Certification courses are being held across 3 Mondays—July 7, 14 and 21, 2014 and 3 Tuesdays—September 2, 9 and 16 . For details, please click here.

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Common Failure Modes in Business Relationship Management – Part 2


hindenbergThis is the second in a series of  posts about common failure modes I come across in the deployment of a Business Relationship Management (BRM) role and/or capability.

In Part 1 in this series I discussed two common failure modes:

  • Failure Mode #1: Where the BRM is positioned as the “Single Point of Contact” between a provider organization (typically an IT organization) and their business clients. The Single Point of Contact role is often introduced in response to a common symptom—the business client is unclear who to contact for what. In other words, the root cause is lack of organization clarity, and the false belief is that by appointing a BRM (or whatever label you use) as a Single Point of Contact, the organizational dysfunctionality arising from lack of clarity will be mitigated.
  • Failure Mode #2: BRM As “Dumping Ground” when the BRM becomes a “catch all” for requests that nobody else wants to deal with, or that people are not sure who is supposed to deal with them. Again, lack of organizational clarity is a root cause here, and the types of problems this leads to are very similar to those identified above due to the Single Point of Contact failure mode.

Let’s look at a couple of other common BRM deployment failure modes.

Failure Mode #3: Strategic BRM when a Tactical BRM Is Needed

This is a very common BRM failure mode.  Here’s the common scenario:

For whatever reasons, a provider (typically, an IT organization) is seen to be not fully satisfying the demands and expectations of its business customers/clients (pick your favorite term—I’ve seen both terms as the preferred way of describing the entities a provider serves).  In response, the provider undertakes some type of capability improvement initiative (sometimes referred to as a ‘transformation’, ‘transition’, ‘realignment’, ‘refresh’, and so on.) The initiative often has several aspects, such as deployment of a Service Management Framework, Operating Model realignment, process management program, sourcing strategy, and deployment of a BRM role/capability.

Someone is nominated to lead the BRM deployment.  They do their research, perhaps retain some consulting advice, build their team, and with high hopes and a strong sense of “damn the torpedoes”, create and execute a deployment plan.

All this sounds reasonable, but the disconnect is that the vision of BRM to be deployed is that of a strategic relationship between provider and customer/client.  As such, the BRMs chosen to fill the role are relatively senior people, well-qualified to work with senior business executives with a focus on business demand shaping and business value realization. Meanwhile, Service Management, Operating Model realignment, Outsourcing, and so on are all underway. Just as a golfer determined to improve their golf swing knows, improvement initiatives are often accompanied by performance setbacks.  Imagine a golfer not only working on a new swing, but also using radically new clubs, a revolutionary new ball, wearing an innovative, experimental golf shoe, on a brand new course. With all these changes going on simultaneously, the performance degradation could take a while to pass through.

While the new BRM team is trying to foster new strategic partnerships, surfacing new, valuable, business demand, the ability for the provider to supply even basic services is seriously compromised. This is especially true with new major outsourcing arrangements, which can take a year to 18 months to settle down. The business partners quickly lose patience as the newly surfaced demand lays fallow in a backlog, and current services falter. It does not take long for one or both of two situations materialize:

  1. The BRMs get dragged into tactical firefighting.  This is ok, but it may be hard for them to reposition themselves back into the strategic role they were originally intended to fill.
  2. The BRMs are deemed to be not adding value—especially given that they are senior and relatively expensive resources.

Lesson 3: Don’t position the BRM as a Strategic when the context demands a Tactical BRM.

It is possible to migrate from Tactical to Strategic BRM, but it demands that the BRM has the competencies to be strategic, and it takes some skill and finesse to establish the medium to longer term vision for the strategic business relationship with the caveat that in the near term, the BRM will be part of the provider organization’s improvement efforts, and therefore mainly focused on essential, though tactical activities, such as service definition.

Failure Mode #4: Tactical BRM when a Strategic BRM Is Needed

This is less common than Failure Model #3 above, but is still quite common, especially when an organization has blindly followed the ITIL framework without sufficiently understanding their supply maturity context.  Here’s the scenario.

The provider has implemented a Service Management Framework such as ITIL, where they recognized they needed a BRM role. Some people from the Service Management function were appointed to BRM roles and deployed. The Service Management initiative has been effective, and the proverbial “lights stay on and trains run on time.”

After a while, the business customers/clients let the provider management know that their BRMs don’t add much value—things seem to work ok, and having folk in the BRM role seems like unnecessary overhead. Sometimes it is the provider management that comes to the conclusion that the BRM role has served its purpose and abandons it.

Meanwhile, there is little to no improvement in the business value that is realized from investments in the provider’s capabilities and assets. All the basics work well, the business’s ‘orders’ mostly get taken care of, but there’s a sense of general disappointment in the provider’s strategic and innovation capabilities.

Someone with the competencies and authority to be a strategic BRM can operate at a tactical level, but someone without those competencies cannot operate at a strategic level.  Tactical BRMs help to get the lights to stay on and the trains to run on time, but once those “table stakes” have been achieved, the tactical BRM will (to push the metaphor too far!) run out of steam!

Lesson 4: Don’t position the BRM as a Tactical when the context demands a Strategic BRM.

It is very difficult to migrate a purely tactical BRM to a Strategic role. They will be unlikely to have the experience and competencies to act as a true strategic partner, or to be granted the executive level access they need to be successful in the strategic BRM role.

What do you think?  What other failure modes have you seen?

 

Note: My next on-line BRMP Course is being held across 3 Mondays—July 7, 14 and 21, 2014. For details, please click here.

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Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP®) Certification Exam Now Available


I am thrilled to join my Business Relationship Management Institute co-founders in the announcement of the worldwide availability of the Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP®) certification exam.

Business Relationship Management Professional (BRMP®) Training and Certification

The BRMP® training and certification is a world-class professional development program designed to provide a solid foundation level of BRM knowledge. The BRMP® certification exam is designed to test an individual’s learning through rigorous examination, providing a leading verifiable benchmark of BRM professional acumen and achievement. It is also a prerequisite of the upcoming Certified Business Relationship Manager (CBRM®) course and certification exam. To learn more about the course or the exam, please visit http://www.brminstitute.org or call BRMI at +1.888.848.3012.

Business Relationship Management Institute (BRMI) is a leading nonprofit corporation serving the global Business Relationship Management (BRM) professional community. BRMI partnered with APMG-International, a global leader in accreditation and certification services, to accredit its training organizations and deliver the BRMP® exam.

The BRMP® Guide to the BRM Body of Knowledge

To assist the BRMP® training course attendees and certification exam candidates, BRMI has published The BRMP® Guide to the BRM Body of Knowledge. This eBook covers the entire BRMP® course syllabus and contains all the information covered in the training and referenced in the exam. But beyond being a study guide for those taking the certification exam, the eBook will be of great value to anyone looking for a comprehensive foundation-level overview of the art and practice of Business Relationship Management. The eBook version of the Guide is available for purchase starting directly from the publisher Van Haren Publishing, and shortly through other popular distribution channels, including Amazon.com.

To assure top quality of the BRMP® training and certification program delivery, only Accredited Training Organizations (ATOs) accredited by APMG-International are authorized to deliver the training. For the current list of BRMI ATOs, please visit http://www.brminstitute.org or call BRMI at +1.888.848.3012 with any questions.

About Business Relationship Management Institute

Business Relationship Management Institute is a leading professional development and certification organization that serves the global Business Relationship Management community. Through our world-class professional development programs, we advance the art and discipline of BRM to help organizations maximize their Business Relationship Management capability. Through its active social media channels, BRMI connects thousands of Business Relationship Management thought leaders and expert practitioners into a vibrant global professional community. For more information, please visit: http://brminstitute.org/ or call +1.888.848.3012.

About APMG-International

APMG-International is a global examination institute. Its portfolio of qualifications includes COBIT® 5, CESG’s Information Assurance Scheme, ITIL®, and PRINCE2®. APMG-International works in partnership with over 250 training companies worldwide. Its Accredited Training Organizations have undergone the most rigorous assessment process in the industry. APMG-International examinations are available globally. For more information, please visit: http://www.apmg-international.com.

Note: My next on-line BRMP Course is being held across 3 Mondays—July 7, 14 and 21, 2014. For details, please click here.

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Common Failure Modes in Business Relationship Management – Part 1


UntitledRegular followers of this blog know that I’m a big believer in the potential for the role and discipline of Business Relationship Management (BRM). (In the interests of full disclosure, I’m also a co-founder of Business Relationship Management Institute, I teach course on Business Relationship Management, and serve as the Chief Examiner for APMG-International’s BRMP certification.)

I talk to a lot of BRMs, and have worked with many organizations trying to implement BRM—some of them on their third or fourth attempt! The good news is, they still believe in the importance of and potential for the BRM role. The bad news is, they’ve failed several times in their deployment of the role, and with each failure comes increased cynicism, and the familiar cries of, “This won’t work here!” and “This too shall pass!”

So, I’m going to devote a few (number to be determined!) posts to common failure modes I come across.

Failure Mode #1: BRM as “Single Point of Contact”

This is a common mistake, where the BRM is positioned as the “Single Point of Contact” between a provider organization (typically an IT organization) and their business clients. The Single Point of Contact role is often introduced in response to a common symptom—the business client is unclear who to contact for what. In other words, the root cause is lack of organization clarity, and the false belief is that by appointing a BRM (or whatever label you use) as a Single Point of Contact, the organizational dysfunctionality arising from lack of clarity will be mitigated.

This is a problem for several reasons:

  1. As a Single Point of Contact, the BRM quickly becomes overwhelmed. If they are effective at fielding calls, they will be called on more and more frequently, until they collapse under the weight of an ever-expanding appetite of questions to answer and issues to solve. If they are not effective at fielding calls, they just add to the dysfunctionality and further alienate the business client.
  2. The BRM quickly gets dragged into tactical issues.  As such, they are unable to add real value, and sooner or later are seen as ‘overhead’.  (And by wallowing in the tactical, they are indeed largely ‘overhead.’)
  3. The Single Point of Contact role tends to alienate key stakeholders on the provider side. Enterprise Architects, Strategic Planners, Portfolio and Program Managers, Business Analysts, for example, value their access to the business clients, and resent having to negotiate the “BRM Doorkeep” in order to gain that access.
  4. It addresses a symptom, not the root cause. You still have a lack of organizational clarity, and this leads to inefficiencies, poor communications, dropped balls and a chaotic, stressful work environment.

Lesson 1: Don’t position the BRM as a Single Point of Contact.

Better to position them as a ‘Single Point of Focus’, helping to connect to and orchestrate key provider roles. Establish the BRM as the “Account Owner” for business clients they serve. Account Ownership carries certain responsibilities and accountabilities. It also must be afforded certain commitments by other key provider stakeholders—primarily a commitment to keep the BRM, as “Account Owner” informed about any contact or activity with the business client.

Failure Mode #2: BRM As “Dumping Ground”

This is a variation on the “BRM as Single Point of Contact”, but happens when the BRM becomes a “catch all” for requests that nobody else wants to deal with, or that people are not sure who is supposed to deal with them. Again, lack of organizational clarity is a root cause here, and the types of problems this leads to are very similar to those identified above due to the Single Point of Contact failure mode.

I’ve seen this failure mode occur when the BRM role is announced without a clear definition of its purpose. Others in the provider organization fear that the BRM might invade their territory, but also see it as an opportunity to get rid of tasks they don’t like (or feel that someone else should be doing.)  So, at every opportunity, requests get deflected to the BRM:  “Oh, our BRM’s take care of that kind of thing.  Here’s an email address and phone number.  Bye!”

Lesson 2: Organizational Clarity is your biggest friend and is something you have to work towards.

Be proactive in defining the BRM role, with all it’s strategic implications and ways it helps to drive business value. Take the time to work with key stakeholders on the provider side to define “rules of engagement” and interaction models.  Take some common (and not so common) use cases, and work through the solutioning life cycle, from idea to retirement—which roles are engaged when and how? Define high-level SIPOC (Supplier, Inputs, Process, Outputs, Customer) models and ensure you have comprehensive understanding and buy-in from your colleagues. Reinforce the strategic, value creating purpose for the BRM role in your day-to-day behaviors.

We will examine some more BRM Failure Modes in the next post—please join me and subscribe to this blog by clicking on the link in the right sidebar.

Note: My next on-line BRMP Course is being held across 3 Mondays—July 7, 14 and 21, 2014. For details, please click here.

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The Disciplines of Business-IT Engagement


how-to-engage-employeesEngagement is a term often used when discussing the relationship between an IT organization and the business units it serves. It’s interesting (and amusing!) to look at the many meanings ascribed to the verb, “engage” (from Dictionary.com). Most of these apply quite well to the context of business-IT engagement:

  • Attract and hold by influence or power
  • Interlock with, mesh
  • Bind (as oneself) to do something
  • Provide occupation for, involve (engage him in a new project)
  • Arrange to obtain the use or services of, hire (engage a lawyer)
  • Hold the attention of, engross (her work engages her completely)
  • Induce to participate (engaged the shy boy in conversation)
  • Deal with especially at length
  • Pledge oneself, promise
  • To do or take part in something (engage in healthy activities)

Other definitions don’t fit quite as well (though sometimes it might seem as if they do!)

  • Entangle or entrap in or as if in a snare or bog
  • Enter into contest or battle with (engage the enemy)

Business-IT Engagement Defined

I like to think of Business-IT Engagement as a process through which business and IT stakeholders:

  1. Discover opportunities to create business value through IT capabilities, assets and investments.
  2. Prioritize those opportunities.
  3. Launch and govern projects and programs that capitalize on those opportunities.
  4. Ensure that the potential business value from those opportunities is fully realized.
  5. Determine how best to sustain and, when appropriate, retire the capabilities and business systems that were created to deliver that business value.

Business-IT Maturity and Engagement Characteristics

I’ve posted before about Business Demand and IT Supply Maturity, and a simple 3-Level Maturity Model. (For a short video about the Business-IT Maturity Model, see here, and for one of my earliest posts on the model, see here.)

Engagement Disciplines

Level 1 Engagement Characteristics

At Level 1 (the lowest level) business demand and IT supply maturity, engagement can be characterized as:

  • Reactive — especially from the IT side. At Level 1, IT is often seen to be an “order taker”, waiting for business stakeholders to generate requests for services or solutions.
  • Inside-out — the IT organization takes a very IT-centric view. Engagement is thought of in terms of IT projects and other IT activities.
  • Technology-centric — engagement is all about the technology – the hardware, software, systems and networks that are the IT organization’s ‘bread and butter’.
  • By and large, the overarching context for engagement is cost — “How will this take cost out of the business?”  “What will this cost us?”  Value rarely enters the discussion!

Level 2 Engagement Characteristics

At Level 2 (intermediate level), engagement tends to be:

  • Active — rather than simply waiting for orders from business stakeholders, IT establishes structures and mechanisms to be an active part of the demand management process. Often, frameworks such as ITIL and COBIT and structures such as Business Relationship Management are introduced when business-IT maturity enters Level 2.
  • Process-centric.  There’s two sides to this. On the IT side, as mentioned above, processes are established to surface and manage demand — whether that be for project-related work or for IT services. On the business side, Level 2 demand maturity is often characterized by business process management, and cross-business unit processes such as order-to-cash, hire-to-retire, procure-to-pay, etc. become significant initiatives, often in conjunction with ERP deployment or major alternate sourcing solutions.
  • Focused on solutions — the engagement is much more about business solutions than it is about the underlying technology.
  • Engagement tends to be dominated by a project context — who, how long, how much, what scope, and so on.

Level 3 Engagement Characteristics

At Level 2 (highest level), engagement can be characterized as:

  • Proactive — structures such as Business Relationship Management not only surface demand, they actually stimulate and shape it with regard to business value and innovation. IT engages in business strategy formulation, with business and IT strategy processes converging.
  • Outside-in — engagement is dominated by the business view rather than the inside-out IT view.
  • The focus of engagement is around key relationships, rather than technologies or solutions.
  • Business growth becomes the overarching raison d’être for engagement— not that taking out cost and supporting business operations is unimportant — it’s just a given.
  • Consistent with the focus on business growth, the context for engagement is business value — with implications for governance, measurement and accountability — implications that dramatically impact the business-IT relationship.

So, What’s An IT Leader to Do?

  1. Take a step back and consider the question — what do our business partners think about our behaviors around engagement?  Do they see us as reactive, active or proactive? Do they see us as coming from our own perspective, or from theirs? Do they perceive our goals to be aligned with theirs?
  2. Consider our perspective on the business engagement disciplines — are they all we would want them to be? If we could change them for ‘the better’, what changes would we like to see?
  3. Think about business relationships and/or past situations where business-IT engagement was productive, value-producing and a great experience for all — what was it about that/those situations that led them to be so positive? How could those special circumstances exist more often/more broadly?
  4. What 3 actions could be taken relatively easily to drive up engagement maturity? What is preventing those actions from being undertaken? How could you remove those barriers?
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